The Literal meaning of Sawm is to restrain oneself from something. For example, Allaah tells us in the Quran that Maryam said,
The fast here means to be silent, that is, to abstain from speaking. Islamically, Sawm means to abstain from food, drink and sexual relations between dawn and sunset.
2. Classification of Sawm
Sawm is wajib (compulsory) on Muslims, according to the Quraan and Sunnah (tradition of the Prophet), during the night month of the Hijri calendar, called Ramadaan, every year.
Allaah, the Most High, said in the Quraan, “The month of Ramadaan in which was revealed the Quraan, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong). So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadaan i.e. is present at his home), he must observe Sawm (fasts) that month,…”
Narrated Ibn Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him): Allaahs Apostle said: Islam is based on (the following) five (principles):
1. To testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allaah and Muhammad is Allaahs Apostle.
2. To offer the (compulsory congregational) prayers dutifully and perfectly.
3. To pay Zakat (i.e. obligatory charity) .
4. To perform Hajj. (i.e. Pilgrimage to Mecca)
Narrated Talha bin Ubaid-Ullah (may Allaah be pleased with him): A bedouin with unkempt hair came to Allaahs Apostle and said, “O Allaahs Apostle! Inform me what Allaah has made compulsory for me as regards the prayers.”
He replied: “You have to offer perfectly the five compulsory prayers in a day and night (24 hours), unless you want to pray Nawafil.”
The bedouin further asked, “Inform me what Allaah has made compulsory for me as regards fasting.”
He replied, “You have to fast during the whole month of Ramadan, unless you want to fast more as Nawafil.”
The Bedouin further asked, “Tell me how much Zakat Allaah has enjoined on me.”
Thus, Allaahs Apostle informed him about all the rules (i.e. fundamentals) of Islam.
The bedouin then said, “By Him Who has honoured you, I will neither perform any Nawafil nor will I decrease what Allaah has enjoined (made farz) on me.
Allaahs Apostle said, “If he is saying the truth, he will succeed (or he will be granted Paradise).”
3. The Purpose of Fasting
The ultimate goal of the fast is to develop taqwaa (consciousness of God) in people, as Allaah said in Soorah al – Baqarah of the Quraan, Verse 183, “…[so] it may produce Taqwa in you.”
Taqwaa is amongst the highest moral qualities that a Muslim can attain. It is achieved by placing a shield between ones self and Allaahs wrath, as the root meaning of the word implies (i.e. taqwaa comes from the verb waqaa, which means “to safeguard”). This is achieved by being conscious of Allaah and all His commandments at all times, which means avoid the Haraam (prohibited) as well as the Makrooh (undesirable) and even some of the Halaal (permissible), wherever doubt arises.
4. Virtues and Benefits of Fasting
4.1 Fasting is a Shield
Fasting provides protection from evil for those who sincerely fast. Aboo Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) reported Allaahs Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: “Fasting is a shield.”
Narrated Uthamn ibn Abil – Aas and Jaabir (may Allaah be pleased with them): The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Fasting is a shield with which a servant protects himself from Fire.”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Fasting is a protection and a strong fortress that keeps a person safe from the Fire.”
Narrated Abdullah ibn Masood (may Allaah be pleased with him): We were with the Prophet while we were young and had no wealth whatever. So Allaahs Apostle said, “O young people! Whoever among you can marry, should marry, because it helps him lower his gaze and guard his modesty (i.e. his private parts from committing illegal sexual intercourse etc.), and whoever is not able to marry, should fast, as fasting diminishes his sexual power.”
4.2 Fasting Causes one to enter Paradise
Narrated Aboo Umaamah (may Allaah be pleased with him): I said. “O Messenger of Allaah, tell me of an action by which I may enter paradise.” He said, “Take to Fasting, there is nothing like it.”
Narrated Aboo Saeed (may Allaah be pleased with him): I heard the Prophet saying, “Indeed, anyone who fasts for one day for Allaahs Pleasure, Allaah will keep his face away from the (Hell) fire for (a distance covered by a journey of) seventy years.”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever fasts one day seeking the pleasure of Allaah, if that is the last day of his life, he will enter Paradise.”
4.3 The People who fast are rewarded with immense reward
Narrated Aboo Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him): Allaahs Apostle (peace be upon him) said,
“Allaah said -All the deeds of Adams sons (people) are for them, except fasting which is for Me, and I will give the reward for it.
Fasting is a shield or protection from the fire and from committing sins. If one of you is fasting, he should avoid sexual relation with his wife and quarrelling, and if somebody should fight or quarrel with him, he should say, “I am fasting.”
By Him in Whose Hands my soul is The unpleasant smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allaah than the smell of musk. There are two pleasures for the fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord; then he will be pleased because of his fasting.”
Narrated Aboo Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him): Allaahs Apostle (peace be upon him) said, “…By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, the smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allaah than the smell of musk. (Allaah says about the fasting person), “He has left his food, drink and desires for My sake. The fast is for Me. So I will reward (the fasting person) for it and the reward of good deeds is multiplied ten times.”
4.4 Fasting and the Quraan intercede for a person
Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him): The Messenger of Allaah (peace be upon him) said, “Fasting and the Quraan intercede for the servant on the Day of Resurrection. Fasting will say, ‘O my Lord I prevented him from food and desires so accept my intercession for him “,
and the Quraan will say: “I prevented him from sleep a night, so accept my intercession for him” ,
4.5 Fasting is an expiation for various sins
Narrated Hudhayfah (may Allaah be pleased with him): Allaahs Apostle (peace be upon him) said, “A mans afflictions (i.e. wrong deeds) concerning his relation to his family, his property and his neighbours are expiated by his prayers, giving in charity and enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil.”
4.6 Ar – Rayyaan is for those who fast
Narrated Sahl (may Allaah be pleased with him): The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “There is a gate in Paradise called Ar-Raiyan, and those who observe fasts will enter through it on the Day of Resurrection and none except them will enter through it. It will be said, “Where are those who used to observe fasts?” They will get up, and none except them will enter through it. After their entry the gate will be closed and nobody will enter through it.”
4.7 Makes us appreciate the provision of food (from Allaah)
Fasting gives the individual a real taste of hunger and thirst which helps him to realize the experience of the poor. This experience should instill a desire to want to help those who are less fortunate by sharing food and wealth with them.
When the fasting person feels the pangs of hunger, he experiences how the poor feel, so he has compassion towards them and gives them something to ward off their hunger. Hearing about them is not the same as sharing their suffering, just as a rider does not understand the hardship of walking unless he gets down and walks.
4.8 Helps improve Moral character
It is required that the individual gives up not only food, drink and sexual relations, but also all forms of lying (e.g. backbiting, slander, etc).
This is confirmed by the Prophet (peace be upon him) statement: Narrated Aboo Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him): The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allaah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e. Allaah will not accept his fasting.)”
He (peace be upon him) also said, Narrated Aboo Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him): Allaahs Apostle (peace be upon him) said, “Allaah said, … If one of you is fasting, he should avoid sexual relation with his wife and quarrelling, and if somebody should fight or quarrel with him, he should say, ‘I am fasting.’ ….”
So, if one observes the fast according to the above principles, it should improve his morale character, making him more truthful and more careful about what he says and does.
If a persons stomach is hungry, this will keep many of his other faculties from feeling hunger or desires; but if his stomach is satisfied, his tongue, eye, hand and private parts will start to feel hungry. Fasting leads to the defeat of Shaytaan; it controls desires and protects ones faculties.
4.9 Health benefits
It has also been noted by medical experts that fasting improves the physical health in numerous ways. For example, during the fast, the body uses up stored cholesterol (fats) which are often deposited in the blood system, as well as other fatty areas of the body. Thus, it helps to keep the body firm and minimizes the danger of heart attacks.
4.10 Training for Jihaad
Fasting trains the will to avoid desires and keep away from sin; it helps a person to overcome his own nature and to wean himself away from his habits. It also trains a person to get used to being organized and punctual, which will solve the problem that many people have of being disorganized, if only they realized.
Fasting trains the individual for Jihaad (fighting in the way of Allaah) by giving him a good course in self – control. During war, the desires of the stomach and the private parts often lead soldiers of war to either commit excesses or to unnecessarily expose themselves to danger.
4.11 Duaa will be answered
And It is Only Allaah Who grants success. May Allaah Exalt the mention of His slave and Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him), and render him, his household and companion safe from Evil.
– Fasting In Ramadaan by Sheikh Saleem al – Hilaalee and ‘Alee ‘Abdul Hameed, al – Hidaayah Publishers, 1999
– Islamic Studies Book 3, by Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, IIPH publishers, 2005 [http://www.bilalphilips.com/bilal_pages.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=277]
– Matters Related to Fasting, by Muhammad Saalih al – Munajjid, IIPH publishers, 1999 [http://www.sultan.org/fasting.html]
 Ahmad, 2/402; Refer to Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/411; Saheeh al-Jaami’, Number 3880; as quoted in http://www.sultan.org/fasting.html#The%20virtues%20of%20fasting
 Ahmad, 5/391; Refer to Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/412; as quoted in http://www.sultan.org/fasting.html#The%20virtues%20of%20fasting
 Sunan an – Nasaa’ee, 4/165; Refer to Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/413; as quoted in http://www.sultan.org/fasting.html#The%20virtues%20of%20fasting
 Ahmad, Number 6626; al – Haakim, 1/554; Aboo Nu’aim, 8/161; its chain of narrations is Hasan (good) [as quoted in ‘Fasting in Ramadaan’, p. 5]; Ahmad, 2/174. Al-Haythami classed its isnaad as Hasan (good) in al-Majma’, 3/181. See also Saheeh al-Targheeb by Sheikh al – Albaanee, 1/411 [as quoted in http://www.sultan.org/fasting.html#The%20virtues%20of%20fasting]
 al – Bayhaqi, 3/345; Refer to al-Silsilat al-Saheeh, 1797; as quoted in http://www.sultan.org/fasting.html#The%20virtues%20of%20fasting
All Praise is due to Allaah, and may the peace and blessings be upon His Messenger Muhammad.
It is legislated for all the Muslims to strive hard in the various types of worship during this noble month. They should strive to pray voluntary prayers and recite the Qur`an with reflection and thinking. They should increase the glorification of Allaah [saying “SubhanAllaah”], declaring Allaah’s right to be worshiped alone [saying “La illaaha il Allaah”], praising Him [saying “Al-Hamdulillaah”], declaring His greatness [saying “Allaahu Akbar”] and seeking His forgiveness.
They should say legislated supplications, command the good, forbid the evil, invite to Allaah, be generous to the poor and needy, strive to be kind to parents, keep good family ties, honor the neighbor, visit the sick, and other types of good deeds.
This is due to the Prophet’s (salallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) statement:
“Allaah looks at your competing for good works during it and He proudly tells the angels about you all. Therefore, show Allaah goodness from yourselves. For verily, the wretched person is the one who is deprived of Allaah’s Mercy during it (Ramadaan).”
– Majma ‘uz-Zawa’id 3:142; Kanzul-’Ummal no. 23692.
This is also due to what is reported from him (salallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) that he said: “Whoever draws near to Allaah during it (Ramadaan) with a single characteristic from the characteristics of (voluntary) goodness, he is like whoever performs an obligatory act in other times. And whoever performs an obligatory act during it, he is like whoever performed seventy obligatory acts in other times.” – Sahih Ibn Khuzaymah, no. 1887.
This is also due to his (salallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) statement in the authentic hadith: “An ‘Umrah performed during Ramadaan is equal to a performance of Hajj – or he said – a Hajj with me.” – Al-Bukhari (no. 1863) and Muslim (no. 1256).
The ahadith and narrations that prove the sanctioning of competing, and being aggressive in performing the various acts of goodness in this noble month are numerous.
Allaah is the one Who is asked to help us and the rest of the Muslims to do all that contains His Pleasure and to accept our fast and standing for night prayer. We ask Him to correct our situations and protect us all from the deviations of trials and temptations. Likewise, we ask Him to make the leaders of the Muslims righteous, and unite their word upon the truth. Verily, Allaah is the Guardian of that, and He is capable of doing it.
Source: Fataawa Islamiya, pp. 220-221
Imaam Sufyaan (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:
Be truthful at all times and in all places. Stay away from lying and from deception, and do not sit alongside liars and deceivers, for all such deeds are sins.
My brother, be careful not to show off, either in speech or in deed, for showing off is Shirk itself (Shirk being to associate partners with Allaah in worship).
Do not be conceited, for even a good deed is not raised (to the heavens) if any conceitedness is involved in it.
Take your religion only from one who is sincerely and compassionately concerned about his own religious guidance. The example of a scholar who is not concerned about his own religious well-being is that of a sick doctor: If he cannot treat his own disease…then how can he treat the diseases of others…? Likewise, if one is not concerned about his own religious well-being, then how can he be concerned about the religious well-being of others?
My brother, your religion is nothing more than your flesh and blood (i.e., You should be concerned about your religious well-being, because if you aren’t, it is your flesh and blood that will pay the penalty through the punishment of Allaah). Cry out of concern for your soul and have mercy on it; if you do not have mercy on it, then mercy will not be shown to it.
Sit only in the company of one who advises you to desire little from this world and who encourages you to put your hopes in the Hereafter. Take care not to sit with worldly people who speak constantly about worldly affairs; such people will ruin your religious well-being and will corrupt your heart.
Remember death frequently, and just as frequently ask Allaah to forgive you for your past sins.
Ask Allaah to keep you safe (safe from evil, from dangerous diseases, from trials and tribulations, etc) for the remainder of your life.
My brother, develop a good character and noble manners.
Do not act contrary to the Jamaa’ah (the general body of Sunni Muslims), for goodness and safety are the consequences of being in harmony with the Jamaa’ah.
Someone who strives constantly for this world is like a person who builds one home and destroys another (because he builds prosperity for himself in this world, while he destroys all chances of becoming prosperous in the Hereafter).
Give sincere advice to every believer who asks you a question regarding his religion. And never hide good advice to someone who asks you about a matter that leads to the Good Pleasure of Allaah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala).
If you love your (Muslim) brother for the sake of Allaah, then give him generously from your self and your wealth.
Stay far away from arguments, quarrels, and disputes; otherwise, you will become a wrongdoer, a transgressor, and a deceiver.
Be patient at all times and in all places, for patience leads to righteousness, and righteousness leads to Paradise. Do not become angry and furious, for those two emotions lead to wickedness, and wickedness leads to the Hellfire.
Do not argue with a scholar, for that will lead to him loathing you. Being able to visit scholars (and learn from them) is a mercy, and cutting oneself off from them means that one is bringing down upon himself the wrath of Allaah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala). Verily, the scholars are the treasurers of the Prophets (‘alayhumus salaam) and are also their inheritors.
Turn away from worldly pleasures and things (to a certain degree), and, as a result, Allaah will enable you to see the faults and defects of this world. Be a man of Wara’ (one who forsakes all dubious and some lawful things because he fears that those things will lead to what is prohibited in Islaam), and (on the Day of Resurrection) Allaah will make your session of accountability easier for you.
Leave many of the things regarding which you are doubtful, and replace them with things regarding which you are not doubtful, and you will, as a result, remain safe: So by warding off doubt with certainty, you will remain safe in your religion.
Enjoin good and forbid evil — thus will you become loved by Allaah. Despise wicked-doers, and drive away devils (regardless of whether they are humans or jinn).
If you want to become strong (in faith)…then be exultant only a little and laugh only a little when you get something you want from this world. Concentrate on working for the Hereafter; if you do that, Allaah will be sufficient for you regarding your worldly concerns….
Ask Allaah for safety (in both your religious and worldly affairs). If you intend to something for your Hereafter – such as giving charity – then apply yourself to doing it quickly before the Shaytaan (the Devil) weakens your resolve and thus prevents you from doing it.
Do not be a heavy eater, whereby you work less than you eat, for that is disliked (in Islaam). Do not eat without an intention, and do not eat when you are not hungry. And do not fill your stomach constantly until you become a corpse, not having remembered Allaah while you were alive (but instead having been concerned with eating to your full and fulfilling your desires).
Decrease the frequency with which you fall into error, accept apologizes (from those who wronged you), and forgive the person who wronged you.
Be the type of person from whom people generally expect good things and from whose evil people feel safe.
Do not hate anyone who obeys Allaah, and be merciful both towards people in general and towards those with whom you are well-acquainted (or both to the general masses of Muslim and to people of high standing in society).
Do not sever the ties of the womb (i.e., do not cut off relations with family members and relatives), and join ties with those who have severed them from you. Pardon those who wronged you, and you will, as a result, become a companion of the Prophets and martyrs.
Do not be a frequent visitor of the marketplace, for the people there (mostly sellers, but some buyers also) are wolves in men’s clothing. Marketplaces are often frequented by devils – devils both of the human kind and of the jinn kind. When you enter the marketplace, it becomes obligatory upon you to enjoin good and forbid evil – but know that you will only see evil there. Stand to one side of the marketplace and call out: ‘I bear witness that none has the right to be worshipped but Allaah alone; He has no partner; the dominion of all that exists belongs to Him. He is deserving of all praise. It is He Who gives life, and it is He Who causes death. All goodness is in His hands, and He is upon all things capable. There is neither might nor power except with Allaah, the All-High, the All-Mighty.
Do not enter into disputes with worldly people over their worldly things, and, as a result, Allaah will love you, and the people of earth will love you.
And be humble….When you are healthy, do good deeds, and you will be granted safety and health (physically and spiritually) from above.
Be a forgiving person, and you will get the things you want. Be a merciful person, and all things will be merciful towards you.
My brother, do not allow your days, nights, and hours to be wasted on falsehood. Spend from your self for yourself – for the Day of Thirst (the Day of Resurrection). My brother, your thirst will not be quenched on the Day of Resurrection unless the Most Merciful is pleased with you, and you will not achieve His Good pleasure unless you are obedient to Him. Perform many voluntary good deeds, for they have the effect of bringing you closer to Allaah.
Be generous, and your faults will be covered, and Allaah will make easier for you your session of accountability (on the Day of Resurrection) as well as the horrors (that will take place on that day).
Perform many good deeds, and Allaah will make you feel happy and at ease in your grave. Stay away from all prohibited deeds, and thus will you taste the sweetness of faith (Eemaan). Sit in the company of righteous and pious people, and Allaah will make well for you the affairs of your religion. And in the affairs of your religion, consult those who fear Allaah. Hasten to perform good deeds, and Allaah will protect you from disobeying Him.
Remember Allaah frequently, and, as a result, Allaah will make you less desirous of this world (and its pleasures and possessions). Remember death, and, as a result, Allaah will make your worldly affairs easier for you. Yearn for Paradise, and, as a result, Allaah will help you obey Him. Be frightened by the Hellfire, and, as a result, Allaah will make it easier for you to endure the hardships of this life.”
Transcribed from: The Biography of Sufyaan Ath-Thauree, p176-181
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